Exhausted By Joy

Field notes from the day Biden won the election

Addie Stuber


Photo by: Markus Spiske

“Where were you when you found out Biden had won?”

I was drinking coffee in my apartment, watching The Great British Bake Off.

I was wearing an XXL t-shirt advertising Brooklyn Brewery’s Defender IPA (a limited edition beer made for Comic-Con) and Christmas pajama pants.

I was confused. I heard my neighbors cheering, but it wasn’t 7 PM, the time when everyone “claps because they care” for essential workers. I looked out my window and saw a jogger. Maybe today is the virtual NY Half Marathon?

I was frantic. I wrenched pots and pans from my cabinets, weighed them in my hands, wondered which ones would produce the most ruckus. I couldn’t find a wooden spoon and a spatula sounded puny, so I abandoned the task, returned to the window, leaned out as far as I could to take in noise as colorful as the Brooklynites making it. An air horn, a kazoo, ambulance chirps, church bells, a boombox playing Hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.

I was crying. A Latina friend called and kept saying, “We did it. We did it. We did it.” She spent the last four years afraid. I spent the last four years vainly trying to comfort her. Despite her pain, she believed in America more than I did. In July, she became a citizen, memorized facts about a government that wanted her gone, pledged her loyalty to a country that didn’t deserve it. America’s greatness had always rested on people like her.

I was moved. I remembered my younger self being lifted high by the mantra “Girls can do anything,” and my older self being brought low by a learned addendum: “Girls can do anything, if only you’d let us.” A woman in the White House meant the door was now propped open. My neice was just becoming aware of the world around her. Her first memories of leadership, of what was possible for her future, would be starkly different than mine.

I was hopeful. When Biden quoted the Bible during his acceptance speech, it didn’t feel like my faith was being hijacked. I didn’t have the urge to yell, “Keep God’s name outta your mouth!” His demands for reconciliation, justice and equity were what I had been waiting and praying for. It was a Jesus-Turning-Over-Tables type of energy, not a sanitized altar call; a steady, controlled burn, not an unchecked wildfire.

I was exhausted by joy, the best kind of weariness. Wave after wave of it crashed over me, swept through the city’s grid, filled the glasses littering bar tables, puddled beneath people wrapped in tight embraces, people who lifted their masks to kiss, laugh, smile with unobstructed radiance.

I was bowed down, unable to catch a good breath, other than the air required to utter two words: thank you.